Sunday, January 31, 2010

Building A Successful Guild Part 3: The Outside Appearances

Well it has been quite some time since this series was going, so it seems appropriate to give some link love! In part 1, I described how the foundation of a guild is the guild leadership, who must be strong or else everything else crumbles. In part 2, I looked at the parallels between framing the different rooms in a house and in a guild, setting up proper avenues for members to enjoy all the various aspects of the game. Now we come to the third part of this five-part series on how to build a successful guild, and more specifically, the outside appearances.

When constructing a house, you pour the foundation and frame the sides and the rooms, and then the fun really begins. As all the details you see every day start going into place, the outside of the house also becomes finished. As seen above, this includes everything from the entry doors to the siding to the roof. Even as the inside of the house stays far from finished, the outside takes shape and becomes an inviting appearance of home. The outside appearance of a guild is just as crucial as the outside appearance of a house.

Although a guild may have a group of friends who come together and grab all their in-game friends to get the roster going, every guild needs some form of recruitment because people inevitably move in and out of guilds, servers, and Azeroth itself. Whether you have your eyes on becoming a huge guild like the two I happen to be a member of, or just sustain a certain number of members, keeping a beautiful outside appearance is important. This will allow you to bring in new members and in the case of a raiding guild, have your pick of a number of people when you need that important resto shaman slot filled (or whatever else). So what do you need to do in order to have this inviting outside appearance?

Again one of the most important things you can have is a good website. Maybe someone on your guild sees players of your guild in Dalaran or groups with them in random instance groups, and they want to find out more about the guild behind this person. A simple google search of the guild name will hopefully lead them to your website, which you set up with various communication channels as previously discussed. But just as important as the forum discussions is the front page and what your first impression will be. If you are a raiding guild, there should be proof of your progress right there on the front page. If you are a casual guild, find a way to put your guild personality into the home page. Perhaps the guild schedule of events, or some member-submitted pictures, all adds to the overall effect. There should be some single person in charge of the website who puts their all into it, so that you encourage more contact from potential guild members and show off your guild to the world.

Just like in a house, these things on your webpage are windows into your special world of the guild. It does not matter if the inside of your guild currently looks well put together...

or if you have a bit of a mess on your hands...

These windows are what potential recruits will look at in order to see if they want to add your guild tag to their character. Another way to form a good appearance is the conduct of your members in Azeroth. There should be some conduct policy put into place, as you do not want your members being the guys in tradechat sustaining the "anal chuck norris" conversation. Indeed, how your members behave when they are not in your presence reflects on all of you, and you need to find a way to communicate that message to members. The best window to view what a guild is like is to see how their members operate in the game. If you have members who helpfully answer questions in tradechat, pitch in to help people while questing, and treat people well in instances, your guild will be very well-though of. We all know the guilds on our own servers that you would not want to be associated with because they get made fun of in tradechat or people just hate them for various reasons. Thus, maintaining your outside appearance must be a hybrid effort between your website and the conduct of your current members. After all, they would like to meet new people and make more friends, presumably, so this should be a top priority.

In Alea Iacta Est, this challenge can be more unique thanks to the size of the guild. In fact, AIE has people in every walk of life and ends up having members at the forefront of every scene in the game, whether it is Arena, Battlegrounds, Raiding, City Raids, or RP Events. AIE has a fantastic website, which links in some news on the front page, has clearly defined information for interested recruits, and links to the things that bring most people into the guild, that being The Instance podcast and the related forums. Once someone clicks around the website, they will see that AIE has little groups of people doing everything, and this information invites people right in to experience it. The forums are the real selling point though, as you can see just how special the community is. For example, one of the guild members passed away recently, and the outpouring of emotions and heartfelt responses are enough to shake you at your core. You don't expect a group of people gaming to come together like a family, but AIE manages to do so and shows it right off for anyone willing to look in the windows. As for in-game conduct, the leadership keeps their ears to the ground and takes care of problems that crop up quickly and efficiently. When reports came in that certain guild members were acting rudely in the new LFG system, the leadership jumped into action, finding out who was being offensive and encouraging members strongly to be ambassadors of the guild everywhere they went. While it is true that AIE's size causes the guild to be viewed unfairly at times, once you look in the windows and give the guild a chance, you see how great it is. The guild keeps growing thanks to the outside appearances, and it's a good thing.

Meanwhile over on alliance-side, The Illuminati has taken a recent stance of staying about the size they are. We already are the biggest guild on the server for the alliance, and the guild leadership wants to keep a tight-knit sense of community on some level. Nevertheless, people come and go all the time and it all starts with the website. The Illuminati website clearly shows the main raid progression and schedule, snapshots from guild members, and some recent forum posts so a visitor can jump right into what is going on right now. The forums might not be as well-traveled as others, but the website invites people in to see what we're all about. In game, the Illuminati has not really needed to keep a conduct policy per se, but the guild leadership will take action to make sure nobody in the guild is doing anything silly in the world like treating people badly or unnecessarily spamming trade chat. These efforts continue to bring in the recruits to refill the membership rolls when others must pass along out of the guild for various reasons.

So the outside appearance of a house and a guild can invite people in and keep your public guild reputation positive. This not only helps bring in new members, it also helps your members join pick up groups for raids and things, because their guild tag starts to carry a positive meaning or connotation. The best compliment I've ever heard in game for our guild is being added to an endgame PUG raid because some other guild members had left this raid leader with a good impression of us. As the series continues to the final two parts, we will look next time into protecting or securing your guild. See you next time!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Tale of Two Heroics

As you can see from the recent look at the armory, this week's big news is that my team has finally become a team of more than one level 80! Navarionae has been approaching the mark for a few weeks now, and the instance leveling has been a fantastic way for him to get easy tanking experience while also leveling at a reasonable pace. Once he hit the upper half of level 79, he logged a final instance run, which was CoS and finished up with some Icecrown questing to break through the final ding. I just had enough time to train his level 80 abilities and left the gear and other stuff for another day.

Well trying to figure out the calculus of how to get ready for tanking endgame content turns out to be quite annoying. You see, with healers, it's all about intellect and spellpower. We do not have to worry about hit, and we certainly don't have to worry about things like expertise, defense, and total health pools. We only have to hope our tank can figure all that out. What makes thing more complex is that defense rating does not correspond with the numbers on the gear. So if you get a neck piece that has 24 defense, your defense rating only goes up 5-7. When you ask people what you need to do to get ready to tank a heroic, even my closest tank friend says "you need def cap which is 535 for heroics and 540 for raids" and "you should have a health pool of 26k unbuffed." Apparently these people forgot how hard it is to find gear prior to running said heroics or grinding said emblems. I was able to get a great 245 tanking ring from the triumph emblems during daily regular instances, but even with buying gear on the auction house and putting all enchants and things together, I struggled to get past about 520 def. Not to mention putting every gem towards defense means my health pool is middling around the 20-22k range. In other words, the calculus says I will be hit with the occasional critical hit in a health pool that cannot soak it up well. Yikes.

Yet again, learning how to be a tank makes you appreciate those people who do it all the time even more. Perhaps with the changes to gear stats in Cataclysm (defense is going away), tanks will not be as hard-pressed to figure it out. I still think tanks now forget how hard it is to get defense capped and enough stamina on the entry level gear to endgame. Nevertheless, I was so geeked out over being able to run two daily heroics that I figured, well...let's just see what happens. After all, I should be locked out from the really hard stuff. I finished up by filling the final glyph spot on Navar and doing some business with my banker, then into the queue we went.

The first instance that pops is UK. Breathing easy, sigh of relief. Was actually with four guildies from another server, and two of them were clearly carrying two relatively new 80's. I died a couple of times along the way, which slowed down the run but at least we did not wipe. Some funny moments like after we beat the Prince and took out 5 iceblocks, someone asks "I did not get iceblocked, why no achievement?" Much giggles were had by all. Two of the other members of the group were death knights, so I asked for some helpful tips and they were glad to help. I think they were just happy they did not get silence or a drama queen in their fifth slot. After downing Ingvar, they asked for another run but I declined, saying I need to get over to my other character and grind up badges. So one success in the book.

Logged over, popped into LFG, and up comes a loading screen I have not seen in a very long time. That's right, the wait for Oculus to pop is finally over. I explain to my groupmates that it's been a while, so apologies in advance if things are a bit sketchy. But I do know how to use a drake. On the bright side, the other four people stayed and the group pretty clearly overgeared the place. So we got going and there were some dicey moments, but our DPS was very solid and things were just going down with ease. As we're approaching the next to last boss with like 8 minutes on the timer, I realize...hey we've got a damn good shot at the "Make It Count" achievement. And sure enough, the last two bosses went down with 3 minutes to spare, which is amazing considering we really did not rush through the instance at all. No drake in the extra cache, but not complaining about a new achievement and an easy Oculus run.

And here's the kicker. The minor detail I left out is that I queue'd up first on Ekat, second on Navar. Yes, that's right. My first ever heroic on Navar was Oculus. Not only that, but I got an achievement I don't yet have on Ekat, partially because the instance has never popped for her. We had such a fantastic group, it apparently did not matter that I had a DPS-level health pool. I got 2 of the 4 people complimenting me at the end of the Oculus run via whispers, and anybody who understands the tank shortage on our battlegroup understands why they would be nurturing. But they seriously gave good feedback and said I was doing very well for someone who dinged 80 yesterday (and got the "dungeon and raid emblem" achievement off the first boss). So there you have it.

I believe despite Blizzard's sick sense of humor, there is a Santa Claus. Must be if I can tank heroic Oculus and have a group good enough to carry me.

I did get a little more help from my real life friends who tank more, including putting together a Titansteel Destroyer and some epic crafted gear. Heroic number two was H-OK, which went fine until my computer crashed. It does this from time to time and I cannot figure out why. Most annoying thing ever with the new system, as people are very quick to replace. Too quick, I think. I log back on in 2 minutes and I'm replaced, even as a tank. Ahh well, at least it went pretty well up until the disconnect, so it's more of a disgust with the circumstances than with the tanking.

Oddly enough I've farmed ToC 4 times since hitting 80 on regular mode, trying to get the 3-4 good tanking pieces from there. I have very bad luck with drops so far, but I'm also really struggling there. So it's clear that I have a lot to figure out as a tank, but there's only so much you can do with this gear. It seems weird, but maybe heroics are OK for me at this point, despite my low health pool. I can only get better by getting gear, and that seems to be the best way. I'll just have to deal with the ego trouncing when people get mad at me for not being the most uber-tank ever.

In the end, it's really nice to have another 80. His next projects other than gearing are getting more mining done and leveling up jewelcrafting. It's definitely expensive hitting 80, but thankfully none of my other characters is needing to spend much gold right now. Plus, leveling J/C will give me more market bang. Until next time, may your Oculus groups be good enough to carry tanks like me!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Now Entering - The Twilight Zone

I'd like to say I have a real substantive entry for this weekend, but alas, I worked a full day today and so it just has not had time to happen. Maybe tomorrow when we catch up on 4 hours of 24. Woot to good television being back in style. Anyways, when I logged in tonight to take care of some business, there was someone in dalaran spamming for a Obsidian Sanctum plus 3 drakes zerg raid. Now that most people are starting to hit ICC gear, the DPS is enough to even take down 25 man Sartharion if the group is well coordinated. Nevertheless, you still do not see a ton of people going to the trouble because it is still difficult. So I jumped in and despite not having only Triumph gear, I got in because they need a tank healer and my DPS does not matter. So off we go to OS.

Well everyone gets buffed up and we get the "this might take a couple tries" speech from the raid organizer. And then something magical happens. We get everything going very well and nobody dies to the flame wall and we literally kill Sarth right before he despawns because the tenth person in the raid had died. But a win is a win! Then since we 1-shot that, we grabbed 15 more people and started a struggle for the 25 man version. We died maybe 10 times, but 5 of those were silly wipes that were not legitimate pulls. We always got him below 500k health so we knew we could do it, and we finally got everything to work with Army of the Dead cast before the pull, Heroism at the pull, and me going Holy so we had 1 disc healer and 1 holy. I actually think it made a difference as Guardian Spirit and Spirit of Redemption into Hymn of Hope kept enough people alive to get just enough DPS. I think we all let out a big cheer in vent as we had PUG'd one of the harder achievements. It's really too bad it was getting late, as this group has aspirations on the Immortal and Undying titles from Naxx, and I think we had a group to give it a good attempt.

In any event, I'm out a little bit of cash for repair bills but I have 60 more hard-earned achievement points and one of my long term goals is crossed off the list. Oh and two titles to go with it. You may now call me...

Twilight Vanquisher Ekaterinae of the Nightfall!!!

In other news, Navar is over 40% through level 79, and he also did a little mining runs to hit up 450 mining. He will drop skinning soon and pick up jewelcrafting. He'll be well behind the times, but he does have some ore built up and should not have to mine too much more to powerlevel that profession. That will finally give me an easier path with enchanting and gems, the two must-haves for gearing. Although I do have a major hook-up from Caz anytime I need gems, so it's not a huge deal. I just don't want skinning anymore and jewelcrafting is the most useful thing a miner can be profit-wise.

So when you least expect it, you may be presented with an opportunity. If this happens, run to it and maybe it will turn into something special!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Comings and Goings: What Every WoW Business Needs

Well the team is coming along nicely, but there have been a few things that have bothered me over the course of time. Just small things about organizing all the various items our toons accumulate over the course of time. Additionally, my group of IRL friends had made a bank guild of our own when we thought we might use it to easily share things. However, for whatever reason, it never much worked for two of the group members and only the real big businessman among us who put the whole thing together used it a lot. Well the other two IRL friends dropped from the guild and so the guildmaster decided to clear it out and make it his own personal guild bank. While I had heard of these things before, I had no clue why or how one would go about this.

So I'm still in the guild in question, or I should say, my Alliance banker was. I logged in today to take care of some business and I decided to see what had become of the old guild bank. Well here is what I was greeted with:

Now keep in mind the owner of the guild has about 35k gold and has a small team of focused toons. 2 that get a lot of playtime, 2 that get some, and one in the works. Sounds a lot like my team, and I was about at 10k gold this week myself. But anyways, the upside is that this player has exactly what I'm building towards for a team of toons. So seeing the ridiculous amounts of enchanting materials and bars of ore and food made me somewhat jealous but not so much of the materials as of the ability to just have anything he needs one click away and saved up in one place.

Right now my team keeps their own materials individually, so Ekat's bank is ridiculously stacked with shards and dust and she really cannot keep old world stuff at all to help out the leveling healers. She also has three Frostweave bags full of holiday specialty items and pretty clothes from tailoring. So merely holding onto things like cloth have been relegated to the bank toon already, who had bank tab bags full of cloth. The other toons did not quite have the same problem yet, but Navar is getting full of stuff from his mining and I'm sure it is just a matter of time before I want those ores and some herbs from random characters for someone else. In addition, I was never really happy about having a level 1 bank alt because only characters above level 10 are really saved for protection in the Blizzard database from what I hear. Even with an authenticator, if something ever happened to my bank alt, I would be devastated. I also happen to have two 20-30 level characters unguilded and not getting any play. So let's figure this guild thing out.

Well I had no idea where to start, but I seemed to remember seeing a guild master listed the last time I clicked on a guard looking for something in a city. Sure enough, they are listed for your convenience there. The stormwind version is located right up by the front gate, which is convenient because you can recruit within tradechat in the city or in the popular starting zone of Elwynn Forest. You only need 10 silver to pick up a guild charter, and then you need to get 9 characters to sign your charter. This is the "fun" part. Now I realize why I keep seeing people begging for guild charter signatures! Like anything else in the game, the easy way to procure these signatures is by paying a bit of gold, like 5 gold per signature. On a busy weekend day like today, that worked like a charm in Goldshire because that's where the characters are who really need the gold and are most likely unguilded. Although I met a couple unsavory characters in the process, I let my cute blueberry warrior (who will never see serious play again) pay about 40 gold out to finish the charter for The AE Team guild. Return to the guild master and then the guild will be formed, at which point you can boot all your help from the guild and voila, you have your own personal guild.

The bank tabs are very expensive, so I only got the first three for now. I could see once everyone gets leveled going to 4-5, but 3 will work just fine for now. I then spent a while shipping everything over from all the characters to the brand new bank alt, who now sports a very snazzy lovely black dress in Stormwind City. So while I may not delete Aebanky right away, I figure it is only a matter of time before the pink pigtail gnome warlock goes away from the loading screen forever. Setting up my tabs to currently hold cloth, herbs/shards, and gems/ore will allow my team to stock up all they need for the professions I intend to have maxed out (Alchemy, Jewelcrafting, Enchanting, and Tailoring).

This may be an obvious step for most players, especially ones like me who learned a lot from Gevlon's blog. Nevertheless, this solves the problems of storage space, organization, having a bank alt of a reasonable level, and keeping my bank alt looking stylin'. Yes, I consider pink pigtailed gnomes and blue hooved aliens kind of hot. At least for the not so sexy job of banking and auctioning. So if you see a good looking bank alt in SW on our server, be sure to say hello! Or in other words, welcome back Aenariel to The AE Team.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Will questing become obsolete?

Welcome back, and I hope you had a great New Year's Day. I have gotten my workload at work back to manageable, although there will be some long hours in the front of January to keep on top of it all. I'm not complaining as I'm well ahead of my pace last year which led to stress all year long. But that's neither here nor there. I initially took the new Looking For Group interface as I always do, which is beat the crap out of playing the game with Ekat and then eventually come around to the other characters. Ekaterinae zoomed right up to three pieces of tier 9 and a couple new triumph badge rings as well as over 50 frost emblems in a hurry by doing the daily heroic. However, running out of triumph badge purchases (I have maybe 3 more upgrades I can make) and the slow grind for frost badges has me turning back to my main goal before Cataclysm, which is to level the team ASAP. Well one problem is I never really want to sit and quest, especially because I have to learn cat form on Arielae or Enhancement on Clarissae. But then I'm not prepared when I jump into a rare instance. But now that all has changed.

So this weekend I dusted off each of the healer alts and queued them up. It had been a long time since we cleared out the rested time, and it usually takes a long time now to clear even 2 of the rested time bars. However, Arielae goes to SM's graveyard a few times, Biancae goes to SM's library a few times, and Clarissae shows up in a Gnomeregan run where we actually cleared the place like a machine. Sure, there were ups and downs because each was geared and spec'd not to heal, but each did an admirable job once I got my healing legs underneath me. Admittedly it is not that hard with only 2-3 healing spells, but you have to be real careful with mana which is something I pretty much ignore on Ekat now. So now it appears totally possible after burning through rested time on all three that I will be able to reach my goals by abusing the LFG system with toons other than Ekat from now on. I will still try and collect my frost badges, but I'm not much of a raider and that will not be changing.

A quick recap. Arielae is totally talented Feral, and she has three healing spells. One of these is a HoT, which I hear is the big deal for druid healing. This turns out to be true as she is much more mana efficient when she does not have to use one of the big heals. The first run she went on the tank picked up way more than she could handle and ended up dropping group after complaining about not getting heals (while I was drinking after the pull!). While I was a bit offput by this, I tried again and had much better success with a tank that did not pull lots of mobs at once. In fact, I went to another instance beyond rested time and got my first Uldaman experience. I now have a couple of healing pieces waiting for me to ding 38 and 40, and some other healing gear I've picked up to make things tons better. I actually regenerate mana now! Arielae sits well over halfway through level 37, dinging twice on the weekend.

Biancae found a bit of help in an Illuminati guildie of all places. You see, someone I'd never seen before in the guild was asking for money alliance side in trade for money horde side, because they have an 80 mage and an 80 priest on Horde. As it turns out, I've had to beg my one friend who plays Horde for netherweave bags and have struggled to build up 5-6 gold. So I jumped on the opportunity and we may do more trades in the future...but Biancae finally has over 100 gold and little bit of breathing room. Her experiences were all in Graveyard and most were as DPS (she's still talented Retribution and apparently we're not as hard up for healers Horde-side). I actually like the melee DPS on her so I don't have any problem doing that for now, especially with only 2 healing spells and of course the major cooldown heals. Biancae also dinged twice over the weekend to hit 31 and got another major help from my new Horde-Alliance leveling business partner by getting a port to Dalaran. Now she can jump around the world a lot easier than before.

Clarissae currently has three healing spells, but one of them is Gift of the Naaru which is on a 3 minute CD. Nevertheless, at this level it is very nice to have a HoT available. She also struggled a bit with the mana in Gnomeregan, but the tank was god and realized the problems I was having since I was building up some intellect-type gear. She has some more work to do on that front, but I never felt completely helpless which is good. After the run I respec'd her over to Resto and need to figure out the water and fire totem quests to have access to more totems. she also dinged once up to 26 and is within a few mobs of 27 if I remember correctly.

So that's where the team is. I believe I will continue to grind off rested time on Navar so that I can get the plate heirlooms over to Biancae so she can move even faster. He's grinded past the ding 76 and is trucking along now mostly in Violet Hold. While I was beginning to wonder if I would ever play these others enough to get them towards endgame, now I just want rested time to build up ASAP so I can get them in there more!

Also two questions come to mind, one of which I titled the article by and may get into more detail on later. First, should I take the plunge and respec to Holy and Resto now that it's clear I can level while healing instances? I really have no need for questing except for maybe gold, but Ekat has a nice business going for that. I guess the real question is whether questing is now obsolete for me and other leveling characters like me. It seems so much faster to just jump in a queue and get going on bosses, plus the game is more fun that way. Perhaps if I hit a really bad instance I'll go questing for a while, but when Gnomeregan is anything possible? I think maybe questing becomes obsolete, which means I can respec to my Holy and Resto without being terribly slow at leveling.

Also just noticed that Lunar Festival got moved from this part of January back into February. Plus Love is in the Air will run for 2 full weeks, the second week at the same time as Lunar. So we'll have a bit more time to focus on Icecrown or leveling or whatever before we get back to the achievement hunting on Navar. Welcome 2010!